February 2004
Volume 56    Issue 2

Collaborative ergonomics field research: An assessment of risk factors at four mines

Mining Engineering , 2004, Vol. 56, No. 2, pp. 24-31
Steiner, L.; Bauer, E.; Cook, A.; Cornelius, K.; Gallagher, S.; Rethi, L.; Rossi, E.W.; Turin, F.; Wiehagen, W.

In the spring of 1998, representatives from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) met several times to discuss the need to investigate musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) in the mining industry. The need was based on reports that found that mine workers are exposed to significant levels of MSD risk factors. The United States Department of Labor (1991) reported that mining is among the most hazardous occupations in terms of ergonomic hazards. According to Winn et al. (1996), an analysis of National Occupational Health Survey of Mining (NOHSM) data indicated that exposures to ergonomic hazards for mine workers were high compared to exposures in nonmining occupations. Zhuang and Groce (1995) examined NOHSM data to report that the three most common musculoskeletal overload conditions in mining were neck and/or back, arm and shoulder, and heavy lifting. At least 35 percent of mine workers were potentially exposed to each of these conditions. Thus, MSHA representatives wanted an evaluation that identified the types and extent of MSD risk factors in mining environments and wanted further evidence that ergonomics interventions could be effective. NIOSH researchers at the Pittsburgh Research Laboratory (PRL) viewed this as an opportunity to take a comprehensive look at ergonomic issues in mining.

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